Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education

The Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education (NFIE) is a non-profit, tax exempt, religious and educational organization dedicated to serve Islam with a special focus on Tasawwuf(Sufism),

Monday, November 9, 2020

How to be a Mindful Muslim: Justin Parrott

Episode 36 - Unlocking The Self - Justin Parrott Youtube Video

How to be a Mindful Muslim- Shaykh Jamaal Diwan- Al Majlis Youtube Video


Ibn Al-Qayyim and Al-Ghazali both have chapters in their books about the merits and realities of muraqabah. And it is not simply a recommended character trait, 7 but rather it is the realization of the supreme character trait, spiritual excellence (al-ihsan). As the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم defined in the famous hadith of Gabriel, spiritual excellence “is to worship Allah as if you see Him, for if you do not see Him, He certainly sees you.” In other words, spiritual excellence is to be completely aware 8 and mindful of Allah at all times—the very peak of faith. According to Sheikh Al-Tuwayjiri, Spiritual excellence is the essence of faith, its spirit, and its perfection by perfecting presence (al-hudur) with Allah Almighty, and mindfulness of Him (muraqabatihi), encompassing fear of Him, love of Him, knowledge of Him, turning to Him, and sincerity to Him. The fruit of muraqabah, aside from the reward of eternal Paradise in the Hereafter, is a state of tranquil calm leading to contentment in this life, “The means leading to stillness (al-sakinah) are produced by the servant’s acquisition of muraqabah for his Lord, glorious and exalted is He, to the point that it is as if he can see Him.” All positive spiritual and mental states derive from it, “for muraqabah is the foundation of all the deeds of the heart.” 10

Muraqabah is actually the fulfillment of worshiping Allah according to a proper understanding of the beautiful names that convey His perfect knowledge. Ibn Al-Qayyim concludes his chapter on muraqabah, writing, Muraqabah is to be devoted to the names of the Watcher (Al-Raqib), the Guardian (Al-Hafith), the Knowing (Al-‘Alim), the Hearing (Al-Sami’), the Seeing (Al-Basir). Thus, whoever understands these names and is devoted to fulfilling them will acquire muraqabah. 11 Muraqabah necessarily includes mindfulness of one’s own intentions, thoughts, emotions, and other inner states. Al-Murta’ish said, “Muraqabah is observation of one’s innermost being (al-sirr), to be aware of the hidden with every moment and utterance.” In every word we speak and in every thought that we choose to 12 pursue, we should be aware of our thought patterns and emotional states in order to react to our inner experiences in the best manner. As put by Ibn al-Qayyim, maintenance of inward muraqabah is “by guarding thoughts, intentions, and inward movements… This is the reality of the pure heart (al-qalb al-salim), by which no one is saved but by coming to Allah with it. This itself is the reality of the inner refinement (tajrid) of the righteous, the devoted, and the God-conscious. Every inner refinement besides this is deficient.” 13

To summarize, according to Sheikh ‘Abd al-Qadr al-Jilani, muraqabah is realized in four aspects: 1. Knowledge of Allah Almighty. 2. Knowledge of the enemy of Allah, Iblis (Satan). 3. Knowledge of your soul’s capacity to suggest evil. 4. Knowledge of deeds to be done for the sake of Allah. 14It is this third aspect—awareness of one’s own heart and mind—that exercising mindfulness within an Islamic framework can help us achieve, “To know which things characterize (the self), what it wants, what it calls to, and what it commands.” This type of exercise is a method of training the mind to identify the 15 way thoughts and feelings behave inside us, with the aim of exerting more control over them and thereby enriching our mental and spiritual well-being.

Ibn Al-Qayyim has provided one of the best and most concise explanations of the many meanings of “meditation” in Islam. He states that an integral part of our preparation for the Hereafter is by “reflecting (tafakkur), remembering (tadhakkur), examining (nathr), meditating (ta’amul), contemplating (i’tibar), deliberating (tadabbur), and pondering (istibsar).” Each of these words represents different shades of mental activity that can be considered forms of meditation. There is considerable overlap in meaning among all of them, but there are subtle differences as well. Ibn Al-Qayyim continues: It is called ‘reflection’ because in that is the utilization of thought and its procurement during it. It is called ‘remembrance’ because it is the fetching of knowledge which must be considered after being distracted or absent from it… It is called ‘meditation’ because it is repeatedly examining again and again until it becomes evident and uncovered in one’s heart. It is called ‘contemplation’—taking lessons—because one takes a lesson from it to apply elsewhere… It is called ‘deliberation’

because it is examining the conclusion of matters, their endings and consequences, and deliberating on them. 35 All of these types of Islamic meditation involve some form of remembering or awareness of Allah, the purpose of which is to purify the heart of evil feelings and the mind from evil thoughts. Every human soul is like a mirror that is polished by mindfulness or tarnished by unmindfulness. Al-Ghazali writes: The heart is in the position of a mirror that is surrounded by influential matters and these traits proceed to the heart. As for praiseworthy traits that we have mentioned, they will polish the mirror of the heart and increase it in brilliance, light, and radiance until the clarity of truth shines from within it and the reality of the matter sought in religion is unveiled. 36By cultivating the remembrance and muraqabah of Allah through various mental exercises and activities, we effectively “polish” our hearts and unveil the virtuous nature of the soul (al-nafs al-rabbaniyyah), which is the pure spiritual state that Allah has created us to dwell in. Abu al-Darda (ra) said, “Verily, everything has a 37 polish and the polish of the heart is the remembrance of Allah Almighty.” And 38 Ibn al-Qayyim writes, The heart is tarnished by two matters: unmindfulness (al-ghaflah) and sin. And it is polished by two matters: seeking forgiveness and the remembrance of Allah. 39 For example, reflecting upon the blessings of Allah is an excellent act of worship and mental activity (meditation) that produces gratitude in the heart and expels ingratitude from it. Umar ibn Abdul Aziz said, “Speaking in remembrance of Allah Almighty is good, and thinking about the blessings of Allah is the best act ofworship.” Remembering Allah with outward words is a virtue, to be sure, but 40 thinking of our blessings is even better because it necessarily occurs inwardly; we are not always fully mindful of the audible words we speak, even when they are good words.

Al-Ghazali recommends for us to engage in four distinct daily spiritual practices (al-watha’if al-arba’ah): supplication (dua’), remembrance (dhikr), recitation of the Quran (qira’at), and contemplation (fikr). The variety in these acts of worship 44 will prevent a worshiper from becoming too bored with a single act, while also nourishing the heart and mind in different and complementary ways. Just as a balanced diet relies upon different food groups for nutrition, a balanced spiritual life depends upon different acts of worship and meditations for complete sustenance.

Mindfulness in Islam (al-muraqabah) is a conscious state of comprehensive awareness of Allah and our inner states in relation to Him. In its complete form, it is the highest spiritual state attainable—the perfect realization of excellence in faith (al-ihsan). Modern science has demonstrated the efficacy of mindfulness exercises in procuring a number of health and wellness benefits, even in a non-religious context. These insights can be critically synthesized with Islam’s traditional concepts of meditation to produce practical contemporary techniques that cultivate Islamic mindfulness, enhance worship, and enrich our quality of life.

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Justin Parrott has BAs in Physics, English from Otterbein University, MLIS from Kent State University, MRes in Islamic Studies in progress from University of Wales, and is currently Research Librarian for Middle East Studies at NYU in Abu Dhabi


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